As well as twenty or twenty-one years of INNATE featured in the last issue, Nonviolent News has now been going on the web for ten years. I wasn't on the scene initially - my Colm began in November 2000 [I lived to regret inviting you - Ed] and in fact all issues of Nonviolent News are now on, the earlier ones as PDFs. I'm glad to see you're reading the most important part of the newssheet [Head-the-ball or header, the size of your head isn't in doubt - Ed]. But, it's a two-way relationship, I always say that I don't need a shrink, I write a monthly column....
Organic agony I don't know if you would call me a dedicated organic gardener but it is certainly how I try to grow any vegetables and fruit that I cultivate. I don't necessarily buy organic in the shops, although nutritionally it is certainly better, on the grounds of price and availability but there can be no excuse when growing my own. I grow what I have found does well in our garden; as well as some fruit and herbs, the main veg would be spring broccoli (now just about to broccle), spinach (well, leaf beet/perpetual spinach that doesn't go to seed until well into the spring the year after it was sown), and summer crops like radishes, courgettes and tomatoes or corn (the last two often the triumph or hope over experience - the tomatoes are sometimes the source for green tomato chutney, though fried green tomatoes are good too).
But. And it is a big BUT. Where I garden is the source of two invasive weeds which make me want to give up gardening altogether. One is mare's tail/horsetail - a primeval success story - look at any pictures of dinosaurs and lurking there you may seem thin stems with hairs sticking out of them - they found the secret of success then and they have kept it ever since; any small root will grow, and the roots go down deep into the subsoil. You can pull it out but that is a pain and leaves all the roots. Digging out all the roots is next to impossible, the best I can do is dig out some so that it takes a couple of years to get back to where it was. And so mare's tail is spreading in my garden and, while it doesn't necessarily kill other plants, will shade smaller ones out of existence if left.
The other invasive plant I have is Japanese Knotweed which is invading from a derelict site next door, coming under the wall. Another horror plant though much bigger than mare's tail and equally difficult to get rid of. I am trying to keep it at bay and was using ammonium sulphamate (Amide) which is a plant poison and therefore not organic but is meant to break down harmlessly within a month, leaving no harmful residues. It has just gone off the market, my speedy web research indicating because it had not gone through EU clearance for pesticides. Whether there was another reason for this, I don't know. Whether I will contemplate using any other poison I don't know. But it looks like the triffids are winning. To someone who has spent decades trying to build up an organic garden, this is sheer orgony.
We are so used to the taste of food sweetened with sugar that foods without added sugar can taste bitter or strange. This is a bit of a sad reflection on modern dietary habits which are, in some ways, both better (knowledge, less meat) and in some ways worse (instant and fast foods, additives) than our recent ancestors. But what is certainly worse is the use of artificial sweeteners, some of which, like aspartame, are positively dangerous and should be banned forthwith. Recent research with animals has shown that more food may be eaten if artificial sweeteners are involved - the palate may taste it as sweet but the body doesn't and more food is consumed - thus probably eating more calories than if there was sugar in it to begin with!
One member of the family being off chocolate, and one off all added sugar, for Lent, made me think about sharing a couple of simple no-added-sugar recipes. The simplest is simply stewing cooking apples with chopped dried dates. I would suggest adding chopped dates to one quarter to one third of the sliced-and-skinned apple volume, but this depends on taste. You may want to mash it up a bit when cooked, and make sure the dates are down into the water when stewing to begin with (don't put in too much, you can always add more). If you want to make it sweeter and you don't mind fruit sugar, you can add some concentrated apple juice to sweeten it further at the end. You can serve this with yoghurt or, if you want a vegan cream, cashew nut cream; finely grind cashew nuts and mix with soya milk, you can experiment with how much to use, it will thicken slightly on standing and will keep for a few days refrigerated. A delicious, nutty cream.
The other easy no added-sugar recipe I use is banana and fig crumble. Destalk and chop up some dried figs, soak and stew them until soft - don't use much water when stewing as you don't want too much syrup to go into the next stage. Mash some bananas, probably the same volume as you have stewed figs. I usually add some lemon juice to give it a bit more tang as the bananas and figs are both sweet. You could use other dried fruit instead of figs - dates would be even sweeter, or dried apricots (if used sulphured apricots the recommendation is to pour away the syrup when cooked, which seems a shame, so it's better to use the darker, unsulphured fruit). For your crumble topping you can use your 'favour-ate' crumble mix, with no added sugar; I use wholemeal flour, jumbo oats, wheat germ (in equal measures), sesame and sunflower seeds, adding a few tablespoons of sunflower oil (this is to enough mixture to do topping for four people) and mixing well. Put the crumble mix on top of the fruit mixture and cook in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. Delish - fast and very easy.
Doing the Dustin
Phil Coulter, Dana and some others were getting a bit uptight about a turkey puppet representing Ireland in Eurovision. But what do they think the Eurovision is about? If it was about creative song writing it would have died a death a long time ago because it would have been judged an abject failure. It's about competing, national rivalries and voting blocs, a bit of craic and a bit of music. The most serious well known Eurovision I know about was that of Robert Schuman, Jean Monnet and others which led to the founding of what became the EEC/EU. OK, Ireland has maybe taken the contest more seriously than some, and won it more often than anyone, but not for some time. Dana, speaking immediately after the announcement of the winner, said the people had spoken but it was a 'fowl' decision - oh dear, it didn't look like she was smiling too much when she said it. There's no need to go off in a Dustin hoff, man.
Cue puns about stuffing, turkeys, birds, feathers etc. It's actually very difficult to come up with new puns about Dustin because most of them have had a free range outing. He is certainly no Turkey-ish delight, and his squawk is definitely an acquired taste. Anyway, which would you prefer, Dustin to be competing in Eurovision or him to be turned into someone's dinner and his feathers used for a duster - dusting with Dustin. And you have to hand it to his puppet master, Johnny Morrison, the role fits him like a glove.
Dustin certainly can't sing, that's for sure, so he should go far in the Eurovision. And with lyrics like "Give us another chance, we're sorry for Riverdance" and a reference to "Terry Wogan's wig" meaning that if Terry Wogan still has the gig for the BBC as a commentator he will have to refer to a song which refers to him.... Totally absurd and wonderful. It might get a bit grating with time and if another puppet tried to enter another year, well, it would just be passÈ, or indeed, another song sending up Eurovision, but, for now, Dustin is the man, I mean turkey. He's not a Den of iniquity. And he literally can't do worse in the competition than Ireland's last place a year ago, or worse than most of the turkeys which have sung over the years. So critics should lighten up as they say in Turkey Thanksgiving land. Irlande douze points! Sure he might as well have a craic at it, let's hope he's able to gobble up all those Eurovision votes and not be given the bird, so we await whether Dustin will end up in the Dust(b)in of Eurovision history.
[Well, that's really profound this month Billy - gardening, cookery and Eurovision trivia - Ed] [Many's a true word is spoken in just writing about gardening, cookery and Eurovision - Billy] [Well, I suppose it's a bit of a turnip for the cookery books - Ed] [Who's getting punny now? - Billy]
It certainly looks as much a propaganda coup for the British royal family as anything but Prince Harry's serving as a soldier in Afghanistan, directing bombing attacks, raises a wide variety of issues - not least his lack of political acumen. His uncritical approach to 'serving his country' is a credit to no one except death-and-duty loyalists, of any country, who believe military might is right. The slogan on the back of his pictured cap - "We do bad things to bad people" - was simplistic to the point of being quite naÔve. While there he worked he worked alongside, and shared the conditions of, ordinary British soldiers as well as Britain's Ghurkha mercenaries.
What was saddest for me was his comment that serving as a soldier in Afghanistan was the nearest he was ever going to get to normality. So, his version of 'normality' is going to kill people in a country thousands of miles from home? And his desire for 'normality' raises questions about what the British royal family are about.
The war in Afghanistan has not been going well for the NATO forces, cue comments about certain countries not 'pulling their weight'. A prince who 'does his bit' in this way must have been worth his weight in platinum as propaganda - a real, live prince coming to the rescue. Now that he is safely out of harm's way they can milk the propaganda until the cows come home. There are serious questions to be asked about western approaches to a situation like Afghanistan and the extent to which military intervention, at enormous cost, has significantly changed things for the better. The practice of the Taliban in power left many things to be desired from many points of view, including gross human rights abuses, but life is even more chaotic today. Would dialogue and concerned but helpful engagement not have worked better? Just asking. Meanwhile, it would be good if Prince Harry reconsidered his role as a gung ho soldier and figured out something useful to do with his life which does not involve killing people.
In the pink
We don't hear much about anti-war activities in the USA but there is lots going on. Here's a nice story about sisters doing it in Berkeley, California. Last year, much to the shock of anti-war Berkeley, a Marines Recruiting Station opened in the heart of the city. CODEPINK (Women for Peace group which came together in opposition to the Iraq war and against new wars) has been protesting its presence ever since with breastfeeding circles, yoga, singing and other life-affirming vigils. The citizens of Berkeley have made it clear that they reject Bush's failed military policy in Iraq and refuse to participate by allowing military recruitment of their children into an endless occupation, and CODEPINK have been backed by Berkeley City Council in opposing the placing of the recruiting station. Peace campaigners have been working to get recruiting stations zoned - away from colleges and centres for young people. See http://codepinkalert.org for more information.
The toppler toppled So Ian Paisley is to step down as First Minister and leader of the DUP in May. Who would have believed Papa Doc could have become an electoral liability? But that he now is and the super DUPers gave him the push. The best comment I have seen was the almost entirely non-verbal front page of the Irish News of 5th March, in a cartoon by the inimitable Ian Knox. The first frames show Paisley pushing O'Neill and Faulkner off their plinths (‡ la Carson au Stormont), and throwing snowballs at Sean Lemass, who is also shown on a pedestal. Then comes the toppling of Trimble off of his plinth. But in the next frame Ian is up there with Martin McGuinness, with arms around each other. Finally, we see the younger Paisley pushing the older, current Paisley off his plinth as he falls, stabbed in the back. A good cartoon and an amazing end to an incredible career; the wrecker finally builds something but before long is brought down by his own supporters. Once more in Norn Iron truth has been stranger than fiction.
That's it, and me, for now, and in another month spring will be well and truly sprung [cue rain, wind and snow]. C U then, Billy.
is Billy King? A long, long time ago, in a more
innocent age (just talking about myself you understand),
there were magazines called 'Dawn' and 'Dawn Train'
and I had a back page column in these. Now the Headitor
has asked me to come out from under the carpet to write
a Cyberspace Column 'something people won't be able
to put down' (I hope you're not carrying your monitor
around with you).
Watch this. Cast a cold eye on life, on death, horseman
pass by (because there'll almost certainly be very little
about horses even if someone with a similar name is
found astride them on gable ends around certain parts
of Norn Iron).